Penn State

Elsa Sánchez - Professor of Horticultural Systems Management, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Rise of Women Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture

Author: Carolyn E. Sachs, Mary E. Barberchek, Kathryn J. Brasier, Nancy Ellen Kiernan, and Anna Rachel Terman

Book Description:

Originally, I purchased this book because I know one of the authors through my job here at the Penn State University. However, I didn’t read it right away. It was a trip to Honduras as part of a team working on gender issues that ignited reading this book. Specifically, our team was studying the role of growing horticultural crops in improving the quality of life for financially disadvantaged women, children, and families. I am the horticulturist on the project. During the trip, we visited a farm and saw firsthand how a woman who became a farmer changed the course of her family’s future for the better.




Most of my work is focused on vegetable farms in Pennsylvania: on commercial vegetable crop production with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. A question that appeared for me was, “How can I do a better job of addressing gender issues for farmers in Pennsylvania?” Now I read the book having the mindset of understanding challenges for women farmers in our state and region and looking for actions I could take.




Through science, this book shows the unique issues that women farmers face in a profession where they are a minority. It starts with historical reasons for some of the challenges women face. Then it defines the actual challenges. It offers solutions from women farmers and research and provides many examples of ideas that have worked to overcome challenges. The final chapter offers a new theory of women in agriculture. The style of writing keeps makes this an easy read. It incorporates real examples and quotes from women farmers with results from research and ideas from the authors. This book forever changed the way I see and approach connecting with all farmers through my profession as a scientist, teacher, and extension educator.

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